The wind has gone out of retail sales growth.
Statistics NZ December data for electronic card transactions reports just +0.9% growth compared with December 2017, and far below the +4.6% average growth rate for each of the preceding twelve months.
One factor is the sudden dive in petrol prices which slumped -11% compared with the same month a year ago in December after rising an average of +12% in each of the July to October months.
But that masks weakness in other core retail sectors.
For example, the December growth in the sales of 'durables' was only +0.4% in December after averaging +4.2% in the rest of 2018. The December "growth" in apparel evaporated entirely, declining -4.4% in December compared to the rest of 2018 at -0.9%.
The 'consumables' sector grew +3.2% year-on-year in December, sharply down from the +4.4% in the rest of 2018. The same for hospitality which was up only +5% whereas the rest of 2018 was showing a +6.5% rise.
The value running through electronic cards for services and non-retail industries showed a similar falloff in December.
It caps a weak December quarter in an unexpected way - no analyst was expecting such a sharp drop in December.